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Safety at Prom Season and Beyond: Your Teen Will Thank You...In 15-20 Years

Guest Blogger: Liz Jorgensen

2016 was our family's last Prom season. Sarah, the youngest of our four children, was a senior at Joel Barlow High School, and it's hard to admit this: I could not wait for it to be over and done! Each year since our oldest daughter was in high school (she will be 35 in June) the Prom and Graduation pomp, cost, permissiveness, and insanity seemingly grew exponentially in many social circles. The following is a short list/rant meant to empower you as a parent to bring sanity back to the wonderful traditions of Prom and Graduation. My above subtitle "Your Teen Will Thank You... In 15-20 Years" comes from our real-world experience with four teens who strongly objected to any level of parenting during Prom and beyond. And now at ages 35, 33, 26 and 23 they say "Geez, that was a stupid plan/ idea/ request/lie, etc." I promise you this, the short-term grief of setting sane limits will be reaped 100 fold or more in the form of young adult children who know that there are limits in life and that safety is its own natural limit. If you are committed to your own child's popularity or social posturing with the proverbial "Keeping up with the Joneses" when it comes to how to set limits on teens, perhaps you should read no further. Although I can completely sympathize with how tempting this trend can be, you have already sown the seeds of potential trouble if you give into plans you know are not safe due to parental "peer pressure" If you are open to some "tough love" parenting advice I offer you the following list of ideas and considerations. An underlying theme for myself that I offer to you to assuage any and all guilt you may feel in saying "no" or "not yet" to your darling's demands of the season is Prom and all extended costs and events are a PRIVILEGE and not a right! The first point is Safety First and that all requests are to be filtered through a few questions: 1) Is my child's proposed prom plan safe? Is it reasonable? Teens traveling alone, late at night to a vacation house that they will stay at unattended for a weekend is NOT SAFE nor sane. Period. Parents serving alcohol, hiring party buses that allow alcohol to be consumed, etc., is illegal and not safe. Parents getting tipsy or drunk at lavish pre-prom picture-taking events while young people get ready to leave is not safe nor sane. These are but partial listings of actual situations we have found ourselves in with our own kids. And yes, I was "The meanest, psycho Mother" who questioned these things and said "no," offering saner choices. All my kids survived, still have friends, and realize how dumb the parents were who allowed all that nonsense. 2) Is this actually a plan that other parents have approved, or is my kid just saying that to me? Well, dear reader, I have to say that sometimes my own kids were lying when they said "Everyone already has permission!" but, sadly, sometimes they were telling the truth. When I would call to verify, I actually had a few conversations that went like this: "Well, yes, we are not thrilled about the 20 teens going to our VT house alone, but our neighbors will keep an eye out. And besides, they are going to party all weekend anyway, if they are at our house it will be safer." Or, "It is none of your business that we are serving alcohol. The teens are locked in. How dare you ask us to reconsider? You are so naïve - they all will get drunk anyway..." These are tough conversations to have, but you do need to check on your teen's proposed plans, and when you do make the calls you may have a delightful interaction such as the following: "I am so glad you called. We were so worried too about this idea! I am not going to let my kid go either! That was a nutty plan? What can we do?" Luckily, I have had more connections with parents with common sense when it comes to safety, but it is also sad to hear from parents who want to make safer plans with their child but feel that they have no alternative but to give in to the parental "peer pressure" of a weekend blow out. Know what your own safety boundaries are, explain them to your teen, and stick to them! Your child may still choose to break the rules ("They are going to do it anyway, Liz") and then let them know what the consequences will be if they do lie and break the expectations. 3) What safe plans have the school created? Many high schools/PTAs etc., spend a great deal of time and money creating amazing post-prom events that are poorly attended due to competing "parties". Try to get your child's friend group on board through positive parental pressure to attend the school and community-sponsored post prom events. 4) And finally, can we afford it? Even if we can, is this money well spent? I know this is a silly thing for some to read. I've witnessed dresses that cost $700+, stretch Hummer limos that cost thousands, (versus a shared limo that costs all teens $100) all manner of stupid and conspicuous spending that are then often connected to unsafe plans. Many of the price tags connected to Prom and Graduation are appropriate for a small wedding rather than a school dance. Prom is a night, not a weekend, prom is an event, not a TV reality show! Teach your child that staying on a budget is always a good idea and help them financially with only the parts of the plan that you feel are safe and reasonable. Again, don't be too influenced by the parental peer pressure of others. In summary, when my husband and I had to say "no" to a plan on the table we would always counter-offer with a better plan including help in planning, financing, etc., for the better plan. I can't say that our kids always did what we thought was better, but the 2 times (out of about 20 proms) that the "plan" was broken, the teens did in fact agree that it was a dumb idea, after the fact of course. And it didn't take a full 15 years!!! I wish you a safe and sane Prom and Graduation season!


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